The Rolex Oyster Perpetual may get overlooked by flashier models like the Daytona, or glitzy models like the Day-Date, but the Oyster Perpetual is the heart of the Rolex brand. One of the company’s earliest creations, the Oyster Perpetual brings together two incredibly important technologies and laid the groundwork for all of the historic and modern Rolex watches we’ve come to know and love over the years.
In this ultimate guide to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, we’re going to outline everything you need to know about this cornerstone timepiece and its importance within the watch world.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Oyster Perpetual Timeline
– 1926: Rolex invents the world’s first water and dust-proof watch case.
– 1931: Rolex unveils its first self-winding movement.
– 1964: The first Ladies Oyster Perpetual is introduced by Rolex.
– 1986: Sapphire crystal used for the first time in the collection, added to the midsize Oyster Perpetual model.
– 2014: Rolex refreshes the Oyster Perpetual and introduces multiple sizes to the collection to include 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, and 36mm.
– 2015: Rolex adds a 39mm option to the Oyster Perpetual line.
– 2020: Rolex updates the entire Oyster Perpetual collection and replaces the 26mm model with a 28mm version and the 39mm model with a larger 41mm equivalent.
Click here for some additional fast facts about the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
About the Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The history of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual starts years before the watch itself would come into existence. In 1926, Rolex released its famous ‘Oyster’ case, the first case in the world that was both water and dust proof. Then less than a decade later in 1931, Rolex released its first automatic self-winding ‘Perpetual’ movement. Combining these two key inventions, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual would go on to serve as the foundation for nearly every Rolex watch that has followed, and it has remained in constant production for more than three-quarters of a century.
What is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual?
There are a few important things you need to know about the Oyster Perpetual, because this name appears a lot across Rolex’s catalog, and it can sometimes get a bit confusing.
The Oyster Perpetual is its own watch model
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a watch model in its own right. The Oyster Perpetual is defined by its hermetically-sealed Oyster case and its self-winding Perpetual movement. Oyster Perpetual watches display the time with running seconds and do not have any additional features such as a date display.
Oyster Perpetual is used as a prefix to many Rolex watches
Some of the confusion around the Oyster Perpetual is due to the fact that Rolex uses the words “Oyster Perpetual” as a prefix for many of its watches, like the Oyster Perpetual Explorer, Oyster Perpetual Datejust, Oyster Perpetual Day-Date, Oyster Perpetual Submariner, Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master, and Oyster Perpetual Milgauss (among others). The reason for this is becasue all of these watches feature an Oyster case and a Perpetual movement. So, the term “Oyster Perpetual” in this case, is used as a descriptor prefix of the watch, to denote that it has a water-resistant case and self-winding movement, not to denote that it is actually a member of the Oyster Perpetual collection.
The Oyster Perpetual is not a Datejust
Because the official name of the Datejust is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, sometimes people think that the Oyster Perpetual is the same thing as a Datejust. However, these are two different Rolex watch models. The easiest way to tell them apart? The Oyster Perpetual does not feature a date display, and the Datejust always does at the three o’clock marker, most frequently appearing under a Cyclops magnification lens.
The Oyster Perpetual is not a quartz watch
The “Perpetual” part of the Oyster Perpetual name refers to the self-winding automatic mechanical movement inside its waterproof Oyster case. An Oyster Perpetual will always feature a mechanical, automatic movement. Although Rolex did produce quartz watches known as Oysterquartz models, these watches are not Oyster Perpetual watches. Instead, they are actually special versions of either the Datejust or Day-Date and both of these quartz-operated models feature date windows at the 3 o’clock location.
How Much is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual?
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is often considered to be one of the more affordable Rolex watches. Today, you can pick up a vintage or pre-owned Rolex Oyster Perpetual for as little as a couple grand. However, the price increases depending on the specific model and its configuration. For example, solid gold models and rare or collectible vintage references can often be some of the most expensive Oyster Perpetual watches available.
Additionally, the current production Oyster Perpetual collection with brightly colored dials is incredibly popular and most models have waiting lists at authorized retailers. Although retail prices range from $5,100 for the 28mm version to $5,900 for the 41mm model, nearly all of these watches sell for a premium on the open market and trade hands for values significantly above their original brand-new retail prices.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Buying New vs. Pre-Owned
When considering buying a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, it’s important to decide whether or not you want to buy a new model or a pre-owned one. However, as is increasingly becoming the case with current-production Rolex watches, many of the brand’s most desirable models you simply cannot buy brand-new from a retailer without spending a significant amount of time on a waiting list.
Historically, the Oyster Perpetual was one of the easiest Rolex watches to find at an authorized retailer, but with the release of the new generation with colorful dials in September 2020, many of different dial options – particularly for the 36mm and 41mm models – are now among the most fiercely pursued models at a retail level. Nearly all of the models from the current generation are sold-out at a retail level, and most trade hands for values significantly in excess of their brand-new retail prices on the secondary market.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual References
As of 2021, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual line is available in the following sizes and reference numbers on the retail market.
– Ref. 276200: 28mm
– Ref. 277200: 31mm
– Ref. 124200: 34mm
– Ref. 126000: 36mm
– Ref. 124300: 41mm
However, given that the Rolex Oyster Perpetual has been in production for more than three-quarters of a century, there are also a near-endless number of vintage and discontinued Rolex Oyster Perpetual models on the secondary market.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Features & Options
Over the decades, Rolex has introduced a number of different styles to the Oyster Perpetual. However, what hasn’t changed is this model’s timeless design, durable construction, and simple elegance.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual materials
Today, Rolex exclusively offers the Oyster Perpetual collection in stainless steel and all models, regardless of size or dial color are crafted entirely from stainless steel and fitted with matching smooth steel bezels and Oyster bracelets. However, in the past, Rolex has produced both solid gold and two-tone versions of the Oyster Perpetual and you can find Oyster Perpetual watches in a variety of different metal options when shopping on the pre-owned market.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Case
As the name suggests, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual features an Oyster case. First created in 1926, Rolex’s Oyster case is credited as being the world’s first truly waterproof and dustproof watch case, and it has served as the foundation for the vast majority of the brand’s output ever since. While not every Rolex watch features an Oyster case, every single model from the Oyster Perpetual collection has been defined by this hallmark feature.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual sizes
The very first Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches were originally designed as men’s models, but over the years, Rolex has introduced many different case sizes to appeal to both men and women who were attracted to the simplicity and functionality of this beautiful timepiece.
– 24mm (discontinued)
– 26mm (discontinued)
– 39mm (discontinued)
Rolex Oyster Perpetual bezel
Today, all modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are fitted with smooth bezels crafted from stainless steel. However, over the course of the Oyster Perpetual’s history, Rolex has also fitted this historic model with both fluted and engine-turned bezels, and a variety of different styled of each can be found, simply depending on the model and when the watch was originally produced.
– Engine Turned
Rolex Oyster Perpetual dial
The defining characteristic of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is its simple dial with no date display. Over the course of the history of the Oyster Perpetual, Rolex has fitted the watch with an incredibly wide range of dial styles, ranging from conservative colors such as black, white, and silver to vibrant and unusual options like those found on the current range of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual bracelet
The Oyster Perpetual is traditionally outfitted with an Oyster bracelet in the same metal as the rest of the watch. However, older examples can sometimes be found with Jubilee bracelets, and some vintage Oyster Perpetual references were even originally offered with leather straps.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual movement
Since its very first release in 1931, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual has been powered by an incredibly wide range of different movements. However, regardless of the specific model or era of production, all Rolex Oyster Perpetual movements are self-winding mechanical calibers that wind themselves via an oscillating weight that rotates with the natural motion of your wrist.
Due to the fact that the Rolex Oyster Perpetual collection is offered in so many different sizes, multiple different movements are used throughout the range depending on the size of the watch. Both the new 36mm and 41mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual models are powered by Rolex’s new-generation Caliber 3230 movement. However, open up the 28mm, 31mm, and 34mm versions and you will see that they’re powered by the Caliber 2232. While these two in-house Rolex movements do have their differences, both offer identical timekeeping performance in accordance with Rolex’s ‘Superlative Chronometer’ standards of +/-2 seconds per day.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Rolex OP?
The “Rolex OP” is another name for the Oyster Perpetual collection – Rolex’s entry-level line of luxury watches. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is defined by its simple, elegant design and reliable self-winding automatic movement. Today, vintage and modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are available in a number of different sizes, but the current production ones are exclusively offered in stainless steel.
What does Oyster mean?
In Rolex terminology, the word “Oyster” means that the caseback screws down for water resistance. The word “Oyster” in this case refers to the Oyster case used for the Oyster Perpetual (along with many other Rolex models). Invented by Rolex in 1926, this case was the first in the world to be reliably resistant to both water and dust.
What does Perpetual mean?
The word “Perpetual” means that the movement is self-winding, also known as automatic. Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are only ever outfitted with these mechanical Perpetual movements. However, nearly all modern Rolex watches use the prefix “Oyster Perpetual” to denote their use of the waterproof Oyster case and self-winding Perpetual movement. While many Rolex watches have the words “Oyster Perpetual” as part of their name, the Oyster Perpetual is also its own collection of watches.
Is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual a good investment?
Like nearly all models produced by this iconic luxury watch manufacturer, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a good investment. This watch is effortlessly timeless and an undisputed classic, meaning that there will always be a market for it. Additionally, like all Rolex watches, the Oyster Perpetual has an amazing ability to retain value over the years, despite receiving constant wear and use.
The current-production Oyster Perpetual models are selling for significantly more than their brand-new retail prices on the open market, and older examples make great entry-level watches for newer collectors thanks to their relatively affordable and stable prices on the secondary market.
How can I spot a fake Rolex Oyster Perpetual?
There are a number of different ways to spot a fake Rolex Oyster Perpetual. However, since this watch has such a long history and has been produced with so many different variations, what to look for when verifying the authenticity of an Oyster Perpetual will differ from one generation to the next. We suggest checking out our complete ‘How to Spot a Fake Rolex’ guide in our resource center for the most comprehensive and up-to-date tips on how to properly authenticate a Rolex watch.
Sadly, counterfeiters are getting increasingly better each day at copying Rolex’s designs, and sometimes the only way to truly confirm that a Rolex Oyster Perpetual is genuine is to open it up and inspect the components of its movement with high-powered magnification. This is why it is also important to only ever purchase a Rolex from either an authorized retailer or from a trusted and reliable pre-owned dealer that stands behind its products with both a warranty and a lifetime authenticity guarantee.